The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) released a statement this week warning that current government subsidies and policies surrounding biofuels could push an estimated 35 million people into poverty. The group of physicians is trying to bring to light the fact that most biofuels are currently being made from food crops, like corn, and that subsidies — which are heavily lobbied for by farm interest groups — push more farmers to grow food crops for fuel which in turn raises the price of food around the world. They’ve estimated that the current way of doing things could cause 192,000 excess deaths per year from hunger.
AAPS released a statement saying, “research by the World Bank indicates that the increase in biofuels production over 2004 levels would push more than 35 million additional people into absolute poverty in 2010 in developing countries.” The added that, “these exceed the estimated annual toll of 141,000 deaths and 5.4 million lost DALYs that the World Health Organization attributes to global warming. Thus, developed world policies intended to mitigate global warming probably have increased death and disease in developing countries rather than reducing them.”
We are with the AAPS on their warning to governments on current biofuel production guidelines, policies and subsidies but we think there should be a very strong addendum in their statement — biofuels can be made without affecting the food supply and a lot of current technologies can do the trick. The alternatives are abundant and creative — you can turn wood into fuel, you can use organisms to decrease crop usage or you can use woody crops, or algae, that don’t grow on land that can be used for food crops. In light of the AAPS announcement, we’d like to say that instead of stopping subsidies, let’s just put our cash in the right place and make sure that our future biofuel use doesn’t affect the amount of people in the world that go hungry.
Lead photo by Lars Plougmann